Alma Mater Matters: Designing Meaningful and Impactful Alumni Engagement within Independent School Communities
Grimes, Carrie M.
Independent schools' alumni engagement programming often lacks creative strategy and valid measures of engagement beyond dollars donated and attendance at alumni events. Despite the fact that independent school alumni are often well educated and uniquely strengthened by vast intergenerational social capital networks, the majority of independent schools struggle to inspire their alumni to give time, treasure and talent back to their alma mater. This phenomenon of alumni detachment should cause concern for independent school development officers and administrative leaders, who confront challenges in enrollment and fundraising as they endeavor to secure long-term financial security. This study focuses on exploring how independent schools can confront this challenge, and find ways to inspire more meaningful and impactful modalities of engagement for their alumni. For the purposes of this study, alumni engagement is defined as a group of behaviors in which alumni: dedicate their time to their alma mater, donate their talents to their alma mater, make a financial gift to their alma mater, and/or interact with fellow alumni in ways which enhance the alma mater’s social capital networks of collaboration and/or community. The study investigates this phenomenon within a conceptual framework undergirded by social identity theory and communities of practice theory.